PSM Shooting: 5.45x18mm vs 7.62x25mm on Soft Armor

Following up on yesterday’s history and disassembly of the PSM, today we are taking it out to the range for some shooting. In addition, wehave some generic Level IIIA soft body armor to test. We will see if the vaunted PSM can do better than the 7.62x25mm Tokarev – another Soviet handgun widely regarded as being excellent at soft armor penetration.

Thanks to Mike Carrick of Arms Heritage magazine for providing the PSM and its ammunition for this video!


  1. Can you say AP.22LR? Dicarding bronze sabot, tungsten penitrator in a heeled bullet going 1200+fps.

  2. ???

    What would that body armour actually stop?

    A .177 mm pellet from an airgun?

    Is it even worthwhile wearing?

    • The vest was not designed to take hits from military grade high-velocity small caliber pistol bullets. It was designed to take hits from more civil rounds like .380 ACP.

      • It is actually designed to protect against all common handgun bullets. The typical military handguns are 9×19mm FMJ and 9x18mm FMJ and it will stop both, even 9×19mm SMG loads fired from an SMG. It will also stop standard pressure .45 ACP FMJ (and probably +P as well).

        7.65×25mm is an older military cartridge, which would not have been very important consideration when the standard was designed. It also will not stop recent very high pressure military AP loadings such as the Russian 7N31 (in 9×19mm), which are very rarely encountered in practice.

        Nevertheless, if you want to stop ALL handgun cartridge bullets, you need Level III hard armor.

    • “body armour”
      In fact Russian norm ГОСТ Р 50744-95:
      defining classes of body armor (lower number – weaker armor) says that
      class 1 must be immune to cartridge 57-Н-181С with bullet Пст, fired from Makarov pistol from 5 m distance and cartridge 57-Н-122 with bullet Р, fired from Nagant revolver at 5 m, when class 2 must be immune to cartridge 7Н7 with bullet Пст fired from ПСМ at 5 m and cartridge 57-Н-134С with bullet Пст fired from Tokarev pistol at 5 m.

    • .357 Magnum & SIG FMJ, .44 Magnum HP, 10mm Auto HP. It will not protect against all hand gun threats. Typically soft armor is worse against small caliber bullets than larger caliber ones. As always, sectional density, materials and construction of the bullet in addition to kinetic energy are important factors, but soft body armor has an additional weakness against small caliber bullets that hard armor in general does not have.

      That said, as somebody already wrote at, this test was not entirely valid. Soft armors are supposed to be backed by soft tissue-like materials such as ballistic gels, which allow the armor to flex more. Hard material such as wood behind the armor are likely to decrease the effectiveness of the armor somewhat. Unfortunately there was no control in this test, such as standard 9×19mm FMJ, which this armor definitely should stop.

  3. If these were commonly available I could see myself buying one.

    Makes more sense than the old .25 ACP, doesn’t it?

  4. Appreciate the terminal ballistics test. Very interesting.

    However, a chance was missed for an actual chronograph test of the PSM. Is the MV truly 1,050 fps as claimed? Or is it even higher?

    It seems very improbable that a vest rated to stop 1,200 fps 9mm was penetrated by a mere 1,050 fps 5.45mm.

    • It’s not that unlikely, although as I wrote below, the test conditions did not match how soft body armor should be tested. Velocity and kinetic energy are just one factor of armor penetration, and on top of that soft armor works differently from hard armor such as steel or ceramic plates. Armor design is a very serious science and I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I do know enough about it to understand that it’s not simple.

      • I believe a IIIA rated vest is supposed to stop 124 grain FMJ 9mm bullets with a muzzle velocity of 1,400 fps, the rough equivalent of hot loaded SMG ammunition.

        But a 40 grain FMJ 5.45mm bullet at 1,050 fps will penetrate? Highly unlikely indeed.

        • By that assumption 7.65×25mm should not penetrate either. It has both lower kinetic energy (at muzzle, assuming 1575 fps, which is about as hot as surplus non-SMG ammo gets) and lower sectional density than 123 grain 9mm @ 1400 fps. So, it appears to me that there are other contributing factors at play and trying to simplify the matter too much and extrapolate too much will give dubious results.

          • Was it (penetration by Tokarev round) because plate was already weakened? It might have been more conclusive to fire each pistol at fresh panel in addition to 9mm Luger. This leaves it kind of fuzzy.

          • Because it was soft armor, previous hits should not have had too much of an impact unless they were fairly close. The fibers will stretch and weaken around the previous hits. Of course for maximum accuracy a new armor vest for every caliber would be good, but it would require a bigger budget as well.

  5. It is difficult to take any pistol that has similar characteristics to anything produced by Kel-Tec seriously but still this was entertaining to watch. Always enjoy your in character moments Ian they make it fun

  6. The nearest American equivalent to the 5.45mm PSM cartridge that I can find is the 25 NAA, which is a necked down version of the .32 ACP.

    And North American Arms claims a MV velocity of 1,100 fps from a 2.5 inch barrel and 1,450 fps from a 4 inch barrel when firing 50 grain weight bullets. Performance considerably in excess of the 5.45mm pistol cartridge.

  7. Smart pistol and ammo system to be sure. Low recoil force, sufficient penetration by wide margin.

    I liked Ian’s call: “you die (three letters) pig!”. He went spontaneously political, but then so did many of us time by time and are still kicking around. Liberte?

    • “Smart pistol and ammo system to be sure. Low recoil force, sufficient penetration by wide margin.”
      For later vest pocket automatic pistol for 5,45×18 cartridge, see ОЦ-26 described here:
      it ws developed from ОЦ-21 but is even smaller (117 x 85 x 19 mm) and lighter (mass without cartridges: 0,4 kg), has capacity 5 and normal sights (unlike ОЦ-21 groove) for 10 m distance; this is DAO weapon. For barrel length of 60 mm muzzle velocity is 285 m/s.

  8. Weapon of choice scenario:

    Setting: a somewhat dilapidated tank factory somewhere in the middle of the deep dark woods

    Just my luck! The “Absolute World Order” has sent a freaking regiment of heavy shock troopers at this joke of a tank manufacturing plant! Their objective seems to be simple: Kill everyone here and then burn down the factory if it cannot be salvaged. Each soldier (unless you count vehicle operators) is heavily armed (each probably carrying a backpack-belt-fed AR-10) and heavily armored (soft armor with plate inserts and Kevlar helmets with bullet-resistant transparent face plates)! So much for my Stevens 520-30 trench gun, since I used up the last of my solid rifled slugs. And just for your information, the vehicles which rolled off the assembly lines two hours ago are not really up to the task, unless you think that a Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha (the majority of what we’ve got here right now) can do anything against those shock troops. One platoon of enemies has just penetrated the concrete fence and it appears that there’s a bunch of walking tanks coming (what is this, the Empire Strikes Back?), so please, help!

    If you’re stuck in the factory with me, get a gun off the racks or a vehicle off the production lines and do something!!

    1. PSM, TT-33, or FN GP-35
    2. Kar98K
    3. M1 Garand or advanced Stoner 63 kits (we received 5 of the latter through airdrop yesterday)
    4. FN Model D
    5. Drum-fed KP44
    6. Lahti L-39
    7. Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha
    8. M3 gun motor carriage or M6 gun motor carriage
    9. GAZ 64 with 37-мм авиадесантная пушка образца 1944 года (translate please)mounted with barrel through windshield
    10. stealth-kill an enemy soldier and get his wonderful toys!

    If you’re coming to the rescue, you may as well screw the budget and bring your favorite toys!

    This activity is completely voluntary. You are not required to participate in any fantasy slaughter if you do not wish to do so. Please keep any and all criticism humane and free of foul language.

    Thank you,


    • “37-мм авиадесантная пушка образца 1944 года”
      37-mm airborne landing cannon pattern 1944 year

      “unless you think that a Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha (the majority of what we’ve got here right now) can do anything against those shock troops”
      I doubt in possibility of creating body armor immune to Type 1 47mm tank gun:
      gives its penetration as 55 mm @ 100 m

    • “screw the budget and bring your favorite toys”
      I am not sure how thick armor of “walking tanks coming” is, but I would suggest
      240-мм миномёт М-240 towed mortar or its self-propelled version – 2С4 «Тюльпан» (“Tulip”) just for its ammunition, like:
      1К113 «Смельчак» (and improved «Смельчак-М» version) guided (target needs to be lighted with laser) munition:
      it can be used at distance 3800 to 9200 m (target might be lightened from 200 m to 5000 m) and contain 21,4 kg of explosive filler, equivalent to 32 kg of TNT (in later version – to 60 kg of TNT), chance to hit 6 m diameter circle is 0,66, so direct hit in roof might be problematic but possible and should be effective, unless it is very well armored.
      And if it will fail there are others (unguided) special munition available [maximal distance]:
      «Сайда» – incendiary, rocket-assisted, carry 42 kg of white phosphorus [19 km]
      3ВО11 – rocket assisted, cluster [19,3 km]
      3ВБ4 – nuclear, equivalent to 2 kt TNT [9,5 km]
      3ВБ11 – nuclear, rocket assisted, equivalent to 2 kt TNT [18 km]
      «Смола» – neutron, [? km]
      «Фата» – neutron, [? km]

      • Thanks for responding! If you take the Lahti L-39, just be sure to have good cover and a backup option just in case your intended targets get too close.

  9. I have seen and ever used steel core 7.65×17 mm rounds regularly piercing through 1,5mm low carbon steel plates while soft core ones giving slight bulges. Steel core bullets have longer bodies and powder charges somewhat different burning speed. Simply hard core features seems create important changes in penetration.

  10. This means that to get whitetail dear with this caliber is not a big deal. From what I heard, this is standard native’s practice.

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